I think that we can all confirm the obvious—we work a lot. Here, in the United States, we work many, many hours, whether those hours are at work, outside work, in the classroom, outside the classroom, attending meetings and conferences, or attending other notable business-related practices as needed, when needed. I never realized how much we worked—truly—until I sat on the edge of the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy, on the River Arno with my husband. We had purchased fresh Prosciutto, mozzarella, olives, roasted red peppers, and bread, and made ourselves a little picnic as we watched people close up shops for the afternoon siesta. I believe the words I said that day went something like this: “What the hell are we doing wrong? We work too much.”
In those days, I was working in baseball, and I spent as many as 80 hours a week promoting the game in Baltimore with the Orioles. The crazy thing was that I loved my job. I loved it so much that it didn’t feel like work. At all.
That was, until we went to Italy.
Since then, my perception on life has changed a great deal. My husband and I did not have children at the time of our work/life epiphany on the Arno, and now we have two who are in high school. Soon, my son will be off to college. Time flies, my friends, and we need to make sure we are leaving room to be the happiest we can be. It sounds crazy, doesn’t it? That we have to “pencil in” time to be happy?
Which leads me to my question: When are YOU the happiest?
I have an app on my phone that I refuse to delete. It’s the Universal Studios app (and if you are on your way to Orlando, you may want to use this app—it tells you exactly how long the wait is for each attraction at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.) My kids think it’s funny that I have kept the app on my phone two months after our trip. Maybe it’s a little nutty, but I like to periodically check (in moments of pure boredom) to see how long the wait is at my favorite rides. It’s funny, but it harkens back to that idea of being happy. We were all truly happy in Florida at that park. We had fun. We had together time. We enjoyed each other’s company and made memories. And my husband and I did not think about work. We were on vacation. We “penciled it in.”
Think about the times you have enjoyed the simple splendor of just being with those you love. Maybe it wasn’t during a vacation; maybe it was watching the Super Bowl, making cookies, or sitting by the pool in the summer. Maybe it was giving birth (if that’s so, more power to you; I love my kids, but the process of delivery…whoa…another story)…or celebrating a family milestone. Whatever it is, you are remembering the moment because it made you feel happy.
What I find, personally, when I ask myself this question, is that my happiness is often tied to being completely and unequivocally relaxed. We tend to be the happiest when there are no worries hijacking our brains.
My happiest moments have been spent with family, on vacation, being together, doing things that make life interesting and special, whether that was in the Outer Banks, Napa, Florida, Ocean City, Bethany Beach, Aruba, London, or Italy. Sometimes it may even be right there in our own back yards.
I yearn for more of that. We all do.
Happiness may not be tied to a place, really, though some places are simply spectacular. More often, happiness is tied to the people we were with when we were at that place, at that time, surrounded by love.
Think about it. Can you answer?
When are you the happiest?
It’s not a trick question.
Stephanie Verni is Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University and is the author of the newly released Inn Significant, Baseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree. Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt. To visit Stephanie’s Amazon Author page and see her books, click here.